One Earth, One Life, One Chance...Go Green

The Journey - A Score to Settle - Part II

Posted by Vikramsinh at Sunday, October 9, 2011

One of the most difficult things everyone has to learn is that for your entire life you must keep fighting and adjusting if you hope to survive. No matter who you are or what your position is you must keep fighting for whatever it is you desire to achieve. 
- Allen George (American Football Coach)

June was over and so was the horror of “B Cubed”. Wounds healed, bruises diminished, swelling vanished, deep purple patch of hematoma (a localized collection of blood outside the blood vessels) on the left side of the abdomen was almost gone. Now I was ready for training rides again. Second weekend of July, Saturday 9th July, 300 kms brevet, to some place ahead of Ahmednagar. Riding in the day light was comfortable journey though rain was making its appearance frequently. The ride was almost all alone, returning in the night with heavy and vicious traffic was appalling. Only single lane road, many times trucks and other heavy vehicles forced me to move out of the road, terrifying. Rain produced low visibility in the dark. Few times I stopped to make the way for trucks trying to overtake at high speed, no road lights. Finally at home - time 12.30 AM in the night, reading in the speedometer - 350 kms in 19 hours. Quite comfortable comeback after “B Cubed”  

July15, 1 month remaining for the planned flying date. I had to prepare for so many things along with my regular (rather irregular) training. I started to look for any help I can get from my employer, umpteen of mails exchanged. No positive outcome. Next step, contacted more than couple dozens of people who were located in Paris or nearby cities and asked them if they can help in any way. After long search I found a friend who was located in Paris. Who is long distance runner, invited me to stay at his place during the tour (Later circumstances turned in such way that I didn’t get any chance to meet him in Paris).
During the whole PBP phase, I was lucky to get as many leaves as I needed, thanks to the manager. The immense support given by my team at workplace and especially by the manager made it all possible. I was out for almost one month, though that was not the actual plan but unforeseen circumstances caused extended vacations. Extra one and half week. 

Mock Ride …Mud on the Face

July 22nd, Friday, Only 3 weeks remaining, I seriously thought for 1000 kms ride, which was due for long time. I thought about Dharwad, good place considering its location on NH4, about 410 kms away from Pune. Getting someone to ride with me was difficult; I asked to friend to come with me on motorbike. Plan was to leave on 3 PM on Friday and ride 900+ kms by Sunday night. Bike problems shifted time lines, speedo stopped working. Hand gloves and bottle cage was in need of replacement. Finally we left at 7.30 PM. till morning we covered 170 kms smoothly.

Saturday morning, it started raining, troubled fate as roads were wet with mud. Each passing vehicle was sprinkling some more muddy water, reduced functionality of brakes cut down the speed. Shoes wet, bike without mud guard gradually created thin layer of mud on backpack.

The route was scenic full of natural beauty, green lush fields in every direction. We reached 250 kms mark at 11 am had our lunch and started again. Continuous rain made it very difficult to ride at high speed, bike was crawling steadily.

Till evening we made it to Belgaum 330 kms. rain was not stopped yet, around 7.30 rain and thunderstorms were became so worse that we couldn't see anything. After one good decent bike rested on the roadside, small shop was the only shelter. Speedo was showing 355 kms. We had some spicy dishes to alleviate the hunger. The shopkeeper was very surprised to know about us. “ you should not ride in the dark and rainy night”  He insisted (rather forcefully asked) to return to Belgaum and get to some hotel for that night. Friend was also reluctant to go further, heavy traffic was scary, better option was return back to Belgaum rather than risking life.

Rain was not mitigating, we returned to Belgaum in heavy rain, stayed at hotel and had good sleep for 10 hours. Wet shoes, socks, gloves were irritating. Changing to dry cloths was big relief. When I awoke in the morning, I was refreshed and ready for ride. Sunday morning we left Belgaum at 6 AM and rain was gone, the rest of the ride was peaceful though I was feeling exhausted. We reached Pune at Sunday night 3 AM. Total of 734 kms of riding over the weekend, that was good training ride. This ride took its toll on my weight, 3 kgs gone and eventually I spent sleepy Monday at workplace.

Official Woes…

Now training ride was over and I was working on formalities. The first thing was getting visa. The process was extremely painful and frustrating. First of all collecting the documents provided in the list of required documents was big task.  A travelling agency filed my visa application on 25th July, arranged an interview on 27th.  Interview was in Mumbai, officials asked too many questions (which were completely irritating and showed poor knowledge of authorities about this great event). The situation turned totally different from what was expected. French consulate held the decision for 6 days. Meanwhile I changed my flying dates -16th to 27th Aug, and booked hotel room for the same period. Getting official documents about the residential proof in original from friend in France was next to impossible. So I sent changed dates and proof of lodging for whole stay to consulate. It was of no use. When only 12 days were remaining to leave for the event, the decision was out; your visa has been rejected (by this time 3 other riders got their visa rejected)

Reasons for the rejection..
1.The information submitted regarding the justification for the purpose and condition of the intended stay was not reliable.
2.Your intention to leave the territory of the member state before the expiry of the visa could not be ascertained.

It was quite disastrous and very unfortunate. Each day was testing patience. Following days, passed in contacting many people for help and thinking of all options available. It was like unimaginable vicious circle, again applying for visa, going through the same process. Indian coordinator for organizing brevets and other riders contacted the vice president of the cycling event. At that time he was on vacation. But he was kind enough to write to the French consulate. Indian coordinator from Pune wrote the guarantee for us. With all these efforts we reapplied, this time consulate became bit lenient and issued visa to couple of participants.

My next interview was arranged on 10th Aug Wednesday, last interview among the unfortunate 4 who applied for second time. Travelling toMumbai, despite of engagements at workplace was repulsive. I tried to trade off this by visiting workplace location in Mumbai. On Wednesday, I was waiting at consulate and got the news that embassy denied visa for 3rd participant (whose visa got rejected earlier). My turn to try luck. Interview was same; once again consulate held the decision for one day, same as they did for 3rd participant so I was almost sure about rejection. This was going intensely painful and disappointing. I contacted all known high profile connections who might have helped..

The next day, Thursday, same visa office, again same interview, same questions ... and finally the officer agreed to provide the visa on the condition that I will report to the visa office once back in India. Thank god, somehow it was over..

By this time flying date was very close, only 3 days to go and I had to prepare so many things. Stressful days ahead...

Keeping all the stuff in place.. packing bike.. all in rainy weather .. complying to the airlines rules for maximum weight, dismantled bike dimensions and baggage specifications.. getting bike box.. all official documents, hundreds of small things and I was almost all alone .. finally somehow I placed all things in place, on Monday (15th Aug) morning left for Mumbai with one other cyclist friend... there we met to other 2 friends. Flight departure was at 2 AM in the night.

Once at the airport, first thing we did is to check weight of bike box, everyone was checking if it was not over 23 kgs. Now we had a problem, one bike box was over the specified weight, we cut the packing of bike boxes and distributed few things in our other bike boxes. The next thing was to get currency exchanged which turned out to be very expensive  for me (75 Rs/Euro instead of standard exchange rate 65 Rs/Euro). As we moved in the queue for check in baggage, subsequent barrier was waiting. “What’s in the bike box?” officials asked skeptically. Again we had to open our bike boxes for inspection and repacked. Next was migration and custom duty form. Here we lost much time convincing officials about bikes and getting different forms from them for each one of us. Finally all formalities were over and we were ready to fly. And so the journey started to dream destination..

...To Be Continued.


Mandar Dhole said...

Woo.. Getting visa must be pain... As if like we are banned to enter.... Ridiculous it is, why there are boundaries and rules to live in such a short place (earth) and in such a short spam of our life...

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